Martin Tyler has been the voice of the English Premier League ever since it was formed in 1992. Famous for his unique style of commentating, Tyler has had an impressive career in the media spanning well over 30 years. He has commentated on some of the greatest games in recent times and brings a game to life when he puts on his headphones and speaks into the microphone.
Tyler played football from 1964-68 when he was studying a Masters in Sociology at the University of East Anglia. While at University, Tyler helped to publish "Marshall Cavendish’s Book of Football". After University, he carried on working in the print industry and got another job ghost-writing for Jimmy Hill’s column in The Times. Meanwhile, Tyler carried on playing football semi-professionally in the Isthmian League for Corinthian Casuals. However, after some soul searching, Tyler decided that he wasn’t going to progress playing football so he hung up his boots for a full time job in the media.
London Weekly Television (LWT) gave Tyler his first job in broadcasting after Jimmy Hill urged him to take up a job behind the scenes at “The Big Match”. This show was revolutionary for ITV because it was the network’s first football program that proved popular with the public.
Although the show was a success, Tyler was just involved with the production of the show and only got to commentate on one match. Unfortunately this was a one off at LWT, but his big break in commentating came with the Southern Television regional television company. In December 1974, Tyler got to commentate for the network in a second division clash between Southampton and Sheffield Wednesday at the Dell. Tyler impressed and this opened up the opportunity of being able to commentate on games on a weekly basis.
More work in television followed, with Tyler landing jobs with Yorkshire TV, Granada and then the ITV network’s sport team. Tyler got his big break as a commentator being a number two to the experienced Brian Moore. He was given the chance as the main commentator for ITV’s coverage of the 1984 European Championships and, in 1986, Tyler commentated on every game of the World Cup leading up to the cup final. By this stage, he had clearly proved that he was ready for the challenge of being a main commentator.
Although he was rapidly building a good reputation at ITV, in 1990 he moved to the British Satellites Broadcasting sports channel. A year after joining BSB, the broadcasters merged with Sky and gave birth to a sports channel called Sky Sports. Little did Tyler know that he would help Sky Sports change the face of football forever.
Traditionally, the BBC were the best for football highlights courtesy of “Match of the Day”, but Sky Sports took a new direction. Sky Sports were able to get rights to cover live football matches and, from 1992, when the Premier League was formed, Sky Sports got to broadcast live Premier League games. This was revolutionary and Tyler was to be the main commentator along with ex-footballer Andy Gray. The double act are over the top in their delivery of analysing a goal, but successful because of this unconventional style of broadcasting. Tyler produces the match facts and does the bulk of the talking while Gray adds in opinions and bounces ideas off his co-commentator. This is what makes the partnership dynamic and why they are the most famous commentating pairing in British sport.
Over the years, Tyler has been involved in many memorable games and has produced many memorable quotes. In 1996, there was a game at Anfield that has been considered to be the best game in the Premier League’s history. Not only that but it has one of the most energetic and memorable pieces of commentary ever. The match was between Liverpool and Newcastle United who played out a 4-3 thriller. After Liverpool’s winning goal went in, Tyler exploded and added to the occasion – "Rush, Barnes, Rush, Barnes, still John Barnes, Collymore closing IN!!! Liverpool lead in stoppage time, Kevin Keegan hangs his head, he’s devastated!"
It was unusual to see so much personality and passion displayed within commentary but Tyler still managed to remain unbiased. Tyler proved that the days of the commentators who read monosyllabically were gone, and ushered in a new era where passion and energy were the norm.
As Sky Sports grew, so did Tyler’s reputation. Not only was he known as the voice of the Premier League, but his voice was to be heard in England’s international games. One notable moment came in Euro 1996 when the English faced the Scots. England won 2-0 with Paul Gascoigne scoring the second goal. The commentating was classic Martin Tyler – "Here’s Gascoigne, brilliant play… ohhhh, take a bow… for that… that’s unbelievable!!!"
Tyler was presented with the "Best Commentator of the Decade" award in April 2003 by the FA Premier League. A panel of football experts decided that Tyler deserved the award. This just adds to his iconic status within commentary. It was therefore no surprise, when Sky won the rights to show England’s away games in qualifying competitions and picked up the rights to show live Champions League games, that Tyler made the step up again.
The wealth of football coverage on Sky is such that Tyler is no longer as ubiquitous. Indeed, Tyler is not seen as the main commentator because Sky Sports field a rotation system with their commentators. In 2007, a new sports channel called Setanta Sports tried to lure Tyler to them. He was offered the job as their lead commentator for the 2007/08 Premier League season, but he rejected the offer and signed a new contract with Sky Sports.